Shooting parties and Hunting balls in the 19th Century

Traditionally the hunting season started in the middle of August. At the end of the summer the ladies and gentlemen of high society retired to the country to hunt. They would shoot birds during the autumn had hunt foxes during the winter. Fox hunting started after the fields had been harvested and ended just before the first spring planting. This prevented crops being damaged by the horses and hounds running over them.

Shooting parties & hunting balls
The reason that hunting was a sport for the wealthy is due to property. The prerogative to hunt game was reserved to the landowner. Hunting on someone else’s land was considered poaching and the penalties were severe. In some countries this could even result in deportation or hanging. If you didn’t own a country estate or a piece of land were game could thrive, you depended on permission of the landowner. In that case you could only hope for an invitation to a shooting party at the home of a friend or an acquaintance. During the wintertime the landed aristocracy would organize countless shooting parties, hunt meets, house parties and hunt balls. Not only did those events bring a social aspect to the hunting season, they also provided the ladies with the necessary entertainment in this otherwise male dominated pastime.

Fox hunting
Fox Hunting remained a purely masculine sport until the mid 1800’s. In 1816 the side-saddle still lacked the leaping horn which offered the ladies a more secure seat and made it easier to take fences. It was only after the jumping pommel was invented that women could gallop and jump fences without the risk of breaking their neck . Before that, the most sensible thing a lady could do was to mount a gentle horse, slowly ride to a meeting point to see the hunters and then return home. Another option was to follow the hunters by carriage on the road and enjoy the picnics and lawn meets, which were often planned around the hunts.

Driven game shooting
The sport of shooting birds on the wing developed after the invention of flintlock, which uses flint and steel to ignite the gunpowder. Game birds could be shot in different ways. Around 1816 driven game shooting was popular. Beaters would drive game toward a line of standing hunters who would be waiting for the birds to fly over. After the birds had been shot, the pickers-up would make sure all game was collected. They were often assisted by dogs who were bred to point out game birds or retrieve fallen birds. The task of the game keeper or shoot captain was to coordinate the proceedings.

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